“I was born with a need to be the center of attention and, of course, you’re the center of the world when you’re acting.” — Julie Christie
IT WAS SEVEN YEARS AGO TODAY
Former House Speaker Tip O’Neill once famously said, “All politics is local.”
I, less famously, counter: “All politics is theater.”
Most of the Republican Party’s formula for success since the late 1960s has been its ability to present its standard-bearers as tough guys, strong men, and decisive generals. The GOP has acted more as a talent agent than a producer of statesmen for the last 45 years.
Richard Nixon won the 1968 presidential election because he told the nation he would stand firm against the madness in the streets. He’d beat down the savage blacks who were threatening to explode out of their ghettos. And he’d swiftly kick the crap out of the North Vietnamese and bring the boys home.
Save Us, Dick
We believed him. Just as many of us have believed pro wrestling is on the up and up and Judge Judy is our nation’s top jurist.
Ronald Reagan won the 1980 presidential election because he told us we were terrific and the 1984 campaign by telling us it was Morning in America. Ham that he was, he knew the Soviet Union was on its way out so he talked tough and thereby snatched all the credit for that empire’s inevitable collapse.
Make Us Feel Good About Ourselves, Ronnie
George W. Bush’s role as resolute CEO of the Great United States, Inc. propelled him to victory over a couple of namby pamby Dem opponents in 2000 and 2004. The nation was terrified of presidents who liked blow jobs, college educated eggheads who’d ponder us into paralysis, and crazy Arabs who’d blow up our cities. Bush was the antidote to all those existential threats.
Be The Boss, George
But then came Hurricane Katrina and the theater went dark.
The worst natural disaster in America’s history presented Bush with a dramatic challenge he was unable to play. It was as if Kristen Stewart were cast in the role of Margaret Thatcher.
Streep As Thatcher; Stewart As, Um, Stewart
Katrina’s president was a role that was written for Bill Clinton. He’d have set up a second White House in New Orleans. He’d have hugged the storm’s victims until his arms ached. Had Clinton been in office when Katrina hit, people would have been marveling to this day about how fabulous the federal government’s response was to the tragedy.
And in the most practical sense, Clinton wouldn’t have done a thing different than Bush did.
Bush knew how to play the business executive and the military commander. He had a feel for the role of the manly hero who saves the day.
His greatest line before his downfall was, “They hate us for our freedoms.”
Which was, of course, as phony a line as, say, “Go ahead, make my day,” or “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
“Well, do ya, punk?”
But we in this holy land have always been a cooperative audience. We’ll forgive any political actor for chewing the scenery as long as it makes us feel good. It’s only when pols don’t make us feel all tingly and warm or bold and adventurous that we turn on them.
Witness Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech. Bye bye, Jimmy.
Bush’s Carter moment came when he uttered those unforgettable words, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”
People were still sitting on rooftops waiting to be rescued when Bush said that. The Superdome was filled with refugees at the time of the quote. New Orleans cops were shooting up citizens.
Yet Bush found it important to bestow frat boy bonhomie upon his emergency response point man at that moment in time.
Bush Takes It All In From Above
And like that, Bush was finished. No matter that no government could ever have responded adequately to Katrina. Nothing like it had ever happened before in America.
But when nature sucker punches us in the belly, we have to blame someone. And it’s not just Americans who react that way. Be it an earthquake in Afghanistan or a flood in India, people will shriek “Where’s our government?” even as the government is digging itself out of the rubble.
At times like that, the first and best thing government can do is assure us everything will turn out alright. The boys in charge must tell us that they’ll move heaven and Earth to set our lives right again.
Bush didn’t know that. He was the wrong actor for the part.
Here’s how I waste my time. How about you? Share your fave sites with us via the comments section. Just type in the name of the site, not the url; we’ll find them. If we like them, we’ll include them — if not, we’ll ignore them.
❏ I Love Charts — Life as seen through charts.
❏ XKCD — “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.”
❏ Skepchick — Women scientists look at the world and the universe.
❏ Indexed — All the answers in graph form, on index cards.
❏ I Fucking Love Science — A Facebook community of science geeks.
❏ Present/&/Correct — Fun, compelling, gorgeous and/or scary graphic designs and visual creations throughout the years and from all over the world.
❏ Flip Flop Fly Ball — Baseball as seen through infographics, haikus, song lyrics, and other odd communications devices.
❏ Mental Floss — Facts.
❏ Sodaplay — Create your own models or play with other people’s models.
❏ Eat Sleep Draw — An endless stream of artwork submitted by an endless stream of people.
❏ Big Think — Tapping the brains of notable intellectuals for their opinions, predictions, and diagnoses.
❏ The Daily Puppy — So shoot me.
Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, Nashville — Music: Barbara McGuire; 6-8:30pm
◗ Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center — Buddhism in Everyday Life Series: Ani Choekye presents “What Are Realizations?”; 6:30pm
◗ Unity Church — Bloomington Peace Choir weekly meeting, new members welcome; 7pm
◗ The Player’s Pub — Music: Stardusters; 7:30pm
◗ Max’s Place — Open mic; 7:30pm
◗ Harmony School — Contra dancing; 8-10:30pm
◗ The Bluebird — Music: Rod Tufcurls & the Benchpress; 9pm
◗ IU Kirkwood Observatory — Open house, public viewing through the main telescope; 9:30pm
◗ The Bishop — Music: Kentucky Nightmare, Panic Strikes a Chord, Dead Beach; 9:30pm
◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center — Exhibits:
“40 Years of Artists from Pygmalion’s”; through September 1st
◗ IU Art Museum — Exhibits:
“A Tribute to William Zimmerman,” wildlife artist; through September 9th
Willi Baumeister, “Baumeister in Print”; through September 9th
Annibale and Agostino Carracci, “The Bolognese School”; through September 16th
“Contemporary Explorations: Paintings by Contemporary Native American Artists”; through October 14th
David Hockney, “New Acquisitions”; through October 21st
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, “Paragons of Filial Piety”; through fall semester 2012
Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan, “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers”; through December 31st
“French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century”; through December 31st
◗ IU SoFA Grunwald Gallery — Exhibits:
“Media Life,” drawings and animation by Miek von Dongen; through September 15th
“Axe of Vengeance: Ghanaian Film Posters and Film Viewing Culture”; through September 15th